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Rapid City Lakota immersion program faces uncertain future

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The Lakota immersion program in the Rapid City schools faces a shortage of teachers for the coming school year, according to school officials.

The district says there are not enough qualified teachers applying for positions. However, Valeria Big Eagle is skeptical about that. Big Eagle is chair of a parent advisory committee.

“I honestly don’t believe we did not have qualified teachers that were able to take the positions. I believe the school district did not put forth the effort to actually make sure that we had teachers for this program.”

Big Eagle has this message for school district leaders.

“I want them to try harder. I want them to try harder for our Indigenous students, for our Indigenous families, and to not give up on them and this immersion program due to politics. That’s what it feels like.”

Big Eagle says concerned families need to stay involved and show up at the next school board meeting.

“I just want to continue to ask for the community and for families and for our allies who are wanting this to continue to show up. It’s really challenging too when there’s not many of us showing up and advocating for this, so we need all of us to show up and fight for this."

District officials couldn’t be reached for comment. In a mass email to parents, the district said it supports efforts to bolster the future of the Lakota immersion program.

The next board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Mountain time on Aug, 16.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.
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